By Deborah Allard
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted May 23, 2012 @ 12:19 AM
Lynn Marinelli and Gary Pennini with history of LPN's they researched and produced for their LPN Class at Diman.
Above, Diman Practical Nursing students working with a “patient” in their classroom. From left, Michelle Owen, Rathvitou Proeun, Lynn McMahon and Lisa Hackett.
An undated photo of Diman nursing students in the early days of the program.
The technology and classroom space may have changed since the program started in 1959, but the students’ caring attitudes and love of nursing has remained the same.
“I just have this feeling, an incredible feeling to help people,” said LPN student Lynn Marinelli. “I just want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Diman Regional School of Practical Nursing was established by the Fall River School Department in 1959. Classes were held at the former Girl’s Vocational High School on Morgan Street. It held its first graduation for 14 young women on Nov. 22, 1960.
The program later moved to Haffenrafer House on Prospect Street, and then to the Diman campus.
This year, it will graduate about 60 students.
“We serve a lot of the health care needs in this community,” said Barbara Pitera, director of the practical nursing program for the past 26 years.
When Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School was built in 1968, post secondary programs like practical nursing were able to expand.
Pitera, who began her career at Diman in 1984 as a part-time faculty member, said the program was offered on the second floor of the main school building. Other students were not allowed on the floor.
“We were referred to as “the nurses,” Pitera said.
For many years, the program grew and finally in 2009, a new building was erected specifically for the Diman School of Practical Nursing.
The School of Practical Nursing runs at Diman, but it is not a high school program. It is offered to Diman and all other high school graduates in and outside the district, which includes Fall River, Somerset, Swansea and Westport.
Students — about 100 at any given time — learn full-time for 10 months, or part-time, either day or night, for 20 months. The nursing program includes lecture, laboratory and clinical training. The cost is about $8,000 for students in the district.
“The students are here because they want to be here,” Pitera said. “There’s upward mobility. A lot of students go on to become RNs.”
She said with studies taking a relatively short period of time, graduates are able to pass the licensing examination and find employment that pays a decent wage.
“The program changes lives,” Pitera said.
A current student said the starting pay is about $23 per hour.
The practical nursing program at Diman is currently the school’s only post secondary course offering. Some years ago, it also offered electronic data processing, electro-mechanical drafting, electronics, business machines, medical assistant and dental assistant.
Go to Diman news.